Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait came out against an agreement to incentivize four-star (or four-diamond) hotel development at this week’s meeting of the Anaheim City Council even thought it was supported by a number of business leaders and labor unions, including Labor Fed leader Julio Perez. Even Jonathan Barda, the president of the Orange County Young Democrats, came out in support of the project. Hotel subsidies in Anaheim have been controversial for some time and the Anaheim City Council voted 3-2 to approve the expanded TOT plan at Tuesday night’s meeting. The deal is a broad rebate program with no direct dollar value as each agreement will be considered by the council individually and there are policy conditions for local hires, prevailing wage commitments, and discussion about priotitizing Veteran hires.
While it’s no surprise that Tait opposed the deal, his position represents an about face from his first term on the council when he voted for a number of public/private partnerships and is in stark contrast to what’s being done across the border in nearby Garden Grove where’ Tait’s company benefits from the very same sort of deals he’s opposing in Anaheim. It’s almost as if denying these deals in Anaheim under the auspice of “good government” is really more about maximizing the value his company’s customers achieve.
Months before voting against GardenWalk in Anaheim, Tait entered into contracts with the city of Garden Grove for a Water Park inside a hotel. Tait’s company also does business with the developer of the project who provided significant funding for his mayoral campaign. The Garden Grove hotel projects his company works on will generate TOT income that could otherwise go to his city if those same subsidies and “free” land were offered in Anaheim. Tait is actually the only member of the current city council who directly profits from TOT subsidies which originate from the city of Garden Grove.
During his 10 years on the city council prior to being elected Mayor, Tait voted to subsidize multiple hotel projects in Anaheim with a 50-50 split of TOT. For example, he voted for a 50 percent split of sales taxes for the developers of the GardenWalk. He supported Anaheim’s incentive programs which only changed once he started doing work for Garden Grove and their developers in 2011 according to the Garden Grove staff report from June 14, 2011.
It appears that Tait only changed his mind about supporting these rebates in Anaheim once the company he owns started profiting from these programs in Garden Grove, which pays nothing toward the resort bonds they benefit from. Putting the cherry on top is that the Garden Grove hotel and water park development displaced dozens of low income residents to use eminent domain to benefit a private business entity which was just awarded funds from the states for being displaced. The Voice of OC has more. Tait could have spoken out against this eminent domain grab as the Mayor of Anaheim and a leader of the OC GOP, but he didn’t because his firm profits from Garden Grove directly as well as the project’s developer.
In the case of Garden Grove, that city used redevelopement funds to buy out land that displaced residents in a mobile home park who were leasing homes on that property. Garden Grove used another public tool to acquire the land and gave it to the developer for private development. On principle, Tait could have resigned the business. Tait is perfectly OK with his business benefiting from something he’s certainly vote against in Anaheim. As a business owner, you can decide which clients to chase and which not to engage.
Tait attended the 100-day luncheon celebrating Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen’s tenure but one must wonder, was it because he’s the mayor of a neighboring city or was he there to fill a seat on behalf of one of his firm’s customers.
Is Tait opposing Anaheim hotel development projects that labor is crying for in hopes of gaining future Garden Grove development deals for his company? His company profits from Garden Grove TOT deals and he remains not conflicted from voting “no” on new hotels in Anaheim as mayor. Hotel developers in Garden Grove are supportive campaign contributors to Tait’s campaigns.
Tait led an initiative in Anaheim to prevent any future TOT development subsidies for any project in Anaheim without a vote, allowing developers to get better deals from cities that border Anaheim while garnering a new stream of new customers for his company. The over the border hotel developers gain access to the benefits from Anaheim’s resort district, Convention industry and stadium areas without contributing to Anaheim’s bottom line. Tait’s “friendly’s” and fans will argue the contracts aren’t all that big, but a few bucks here and a few bucks there, and you get some serious money all under the cover of kindness.